Admiral Davidson, likely next PACOM chief, sees “historic opportunity” in India
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th April 18
Admiral Philip S Davidson, who President Donald Trump has chosen to replace Admiral Harry B Harris as the top US military commander responsible for the Indo-Pacific region suggested the US should replace Russia as India’s premier security partner.
Asked in his confirmation hearings on Tuesday by the US Senate Armed Services Committee about what he envisaged – military sales, or military training – as the key tool for engaging India, Davidson stated: “India’s military has long relied on the former Soviet Union for some of their technology and training. We have to break down that historical background, to a certain extent. Break down is not the correct word, but we willing to work with that so we can move forward with India.
As Pacific Command (PACOM) chief over the last three years, Harris has assiduously cultivated India as a military partner for helping contain Chinese expansionism. However, his likely successor, Davidson, has gone even further.
Davidson’s statement comes just days after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman snubbed Russian arms exhibitors at Defexpo 2018 in Chennai. As this newspaper reported (April 15, “Russia rues its declining role as arms supplier to India”) Sitharaman turned her back on Russian exhibits, ignoring them as she strolled past, looking instead at the Israeli exhibits across the aisle.
Questioned in Washington D.C. by the Senate panel about which Indo-Pacific countries he regarded as “most important”, Davidson mentioned America’s “five treaty allies in the Pacific” – Japan, [South] Korea, Australia, Philippines and Thailand – but then switched tack to India. “Of partners, I think the historic opportunity for the United States going forward is probably with India. That would be a relationship that I intend to work on with great energy”, he stated.
Davidson was also questioned about his views on the “quadrilateral, which Senate Committee described as “a loose coalition between the United States, Japan, Australia and India”.
Davidson responded: “I agree there is some opportunity there, Senator. Absolutely, to come together on issues where our interests converge.”
“I will seek to prioritize increasing maritime security cooperation, expanding the military-to-military relationship across all Services, concluding key foundational agreements, facilitating greater Indian contributions to Afghanistan, and deepening defense cooperation,” Davidson said.
As a navy officer, Davidson made his worry clear about China’s growing capability in submarine warfare, which threatened to erode the US Navy’s “perishable lead”.
“They have new submarines on both the ballistic missile side and on the attack submarine side and they’re achieving numbers in the build of those submarines as well”, Davidson stated.
Asked by Senate panel members whether cyber espionage was responsible for China’s growing submarine capabilities, Davidson was blunt: “I believe they are stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage”, he said.
With no apparent hurdles to Davidson’s confirmation as the next commander of PACOM – the Hawaii-based military command whose responsibilities sprawl across the Pacific Ocean, the seas around China and much of the Indian Ocean, including India – he is likely to take over command from Harris in the middle of 2018.